Tag Archives: Nissan Leaf

Gov. Haslam: EV Owners Are Watching

Gov. Bill Haslam, R-Pilot Oil, says we have a major problem looming, which is funding our road infrastructure due to declining gas tax revenue. His Transportation Commissioner concurs, saying:

Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said in budget hearings last week that he has met with the heads of the House and Senate transportation committees about the effect of improving fuel economy and the advent of electric vehicles on Tennessee’s gas tax system.

“We’re going to have to figure out before it’s too late how we’re going to systematically fund transportation in the future,” Schroer said at the hearing. “We can’t always rely on the gas tax to be the way that we fund transportation.”

Schroer said part of the discussion with lawmakers centered on what to do about electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf.

Well, you can’t say I didn’t see this one coming. Leaf owners such as myself well know that we will have to pay some kind of tax to make up for the gas taxes we no longer pay, this is not a shocker. Fair enough, we’re using the roads, we’ll pay our fair share. But “a major problem for the state’s infrastructure over the next decade”? Doubtful.

There are so few EVs on the road now and for the foreseeable future that I doubt the loss of our gas tax revenue constitutes “a major problem for the state’s infrastructure.” I mean really, if we’re going to have that many EVs on the road in 10 years then you folks better be more worried about the electric grid than fixing potholes in state roads. Slap an extra $100 tax on the sale of every EV and I think we’re done for now.

Pardon me for being suspicious that the Leaf has been singled out. You know, there are people who run their vehicles on cooking oil; they don’t pay gas tax, either. Why not mention them, too? They’ve been getting a free ride for years. Meanwhile, people who buy gasoline for things like lawnmowers DO pay the tax but don’t use the roads. Right now, from a revenue perspective, I’d say it’s all a wash.

But yes, over time we will need to address the issue, as will the entire nation. This is not an issue unique to Tennessee. I’m just not seeing the urgency here. And pardon me for saying this but the Haslam Administration doesn’t have a good track record when it rushes in to things.

Unless… well, unless Gov. Pilot Oil has something else in mind. I do think such cynicism is warranted, based on the governor’s past actions. After all, Gov. Haslam, you did leave your Pilot Oil holdings out of your “blind” trust by pretending to not understand the entire point of a blind trust.

And you did play all innocent when your freeze on new state regulations meant the family’s chain of truck stops could skirt an environmental rule affecting fuel storage tanks. You batted those baby browns and gave us that aw-shucks grin and said, “who, me? Did I do that? Well, I do declare!”

You know you did, governor. So I really just don’t trust your motives here, nor should anyone. No offense, but you sorta asked for it. It’s obvious that gas-free EVs and higher CAFE standards (which you openly opposed, for obvious reasons) are going to cut into Pilot Oil profits eventually. I’m not denying that. And you are in a position to keep tabs on the family business in a way the public is not, because Pilot Oil is a privately-held company. Meanwhile, as governor, you are in a position to enact policies that directly impact said privately-held company. That’s just the facts. You basically asked us to just trust you, but why should we? I don’t trust any politician.

So Gov. Haslam, I conclude that your conflict of interest just keeps rearing its ugly head. That just really sucks for you. It just won’t go away. That said, this is a problem you created when you chose to keep your Pilot Oil holdings out of your blind trust.

It’s just inconceivable to me that you won’t solve this “major problem” in a way that benefits the people who sell gasoline: mainly, you and your family. And our local news media’s willful amnesia about the source of your family fortune is pretty sucky too, since we’re on the topic.

Anyway, I’m putting the governor on notice: I’m watching. I’m paying attention. I’m doubtful that you will take any action against the interests of Pilot Oil. And I’m very suspicious of this sudden appearance of a “major problem” for our infrastructure.

Don’t think for a second I won’t call you on it. You’ve been warned.


Filed under Bill Haslam, electric car, infrastructure, taxes, Tennessee

Leaf Peeping

Look At All The Leafs!

I stopped by the local National Plug-In Day get-together Sunday at Schneider Electric and saw about a dozen or so Leafs and one Chevy Volt (that’s the silver car pictured above). I spoke to the Volt guy, who told me his car runs for 40 miles like a Leaf, then switches to a gasoline engine. I asked him if he’s ever tempted to keep his battery charged so he never has to use gasoline. His answer? “All the time!”

Yeah, I guess there’s a market for a Volt, people who regularly need to travel longer distances and such. For me, I don’t see the point, but not everyone has a second car to fall back on. Mostly, I suspect the gas engine back-up appeals to people who suffer from “range anxiety.” Which, it turns out, I have, according to some Leaf folks I spoke with.

I talked to one couple who said they don’t see the need for public charging stations because, even though they live down in Franklin, they’ve made two trips to Nashville on one charge and have learned to stop worrying about range issues. That’s what my Leaf-owning friend in Williamson County says, too. So even though I start worrying when my charge gets below 50%, I’m being unnecessarily silly. This is “range anxiety.”

Okay, I’ll cop to it. Part of it is that I just don’t drive that much. I’ve put 750 miles on my car since July. My friend says she’s put more miles than that on her bicycle! She’s put about 4,000 miles on her Leaf in the same amount of time and has calculated that she’s saved about $350-$375 in gas money so far (and they’d be due for an oil change now, too.) So that’s pretty significant savings.

The Blink charger offers a lot of data on the keypad to help you calculate stuff like this. We pay .091 per kWh, so I figured for the month of September I spent $5.15 on fueling my Leaf. Blink calculated I used the equivalent of 8.16 gallons of gas in September, which at $3.25/gallon would have been, what, $26.50 or so? So for the month of September I saved over $20 in gas. I’ve also saved 46.48 lbs. in CO2 — not much compared to the 23,432 lbs. of CO2 I saved because of the solar panels, but that will increase as I drive more.

Speaking of solar, Schneider Electric has an amazing 6-acre solar farm in Smyrna which powers their factory there. What a great idea.

Last time I flew into Nashville I was struck by all of the giant warehouses just begging for solar panels on their rooftops. That’s a lot of wasted real estate out there.

Meanwhile, the geniuses at TVA have decided the answer is to cut the size of the installations they will approve through their Generation Partners program — for the second year in a row. I haven’t researched this, but I’m going to guess TVA will say they are favoring smaller installations of the kind used by the residential market and small businesses; massive solar arrays installed by big corporations like Schneider won’t be selling their green power to TVA in the future. While I can appreciate encouraging smaller installations, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to focus on one more than the other. We need both. In a sane world TVA would realize its fossil plants are old and leaky, lawsuits are expensive, carbon trading is coming to America, and those distribution center rooftops are ideal real estate for PV systems.


Filed under electric car, environment

Living The Leaf Life

I’ve had my new, all-electric Leaf for about 6 weeks, and I was out of town for two of those, so really it’s been a month of driving time. So here’s my update.

First of all, I totally love it. I love not worrying about gas prices anymore (how much is gas? Anyone? Bueller?). I love all the gadgets and doo-dads, which let me add are not unique to the Leaf. I still get confused by the keyless entry … on more than one occasion I’ve left my keys in the car, which is a good way to get your car stolen. I also sometimes forget to put it in park (which is the push of a button) before turning it off (another push of a button.) Too many buttons to push; I’ve been driving for 35 years and old habits die hard.

I’ve put a little over 400 miles on the Leaf and have taken it on the interstate just twice. I love how it drives, love how quiet it is. After years of driving an SUV I love being small again. I forgot how great it is to be able to zip in and out of parking places.

But I know, I know .. you want to know about the range, don’t you? That’s the first thing everyone asks: how far can you go on a charge? My answer is: I don’t know! It depends on how you’re driving (interstate or surface roads), if you’re in “eco” mode, if you’re running the A/C and have a car full of passengers, etc. The Leaf has regenerative braking, so you’re recharging your battery as you drive, too. So it’s hard to tell. So far the rule of thumb — 100 miles — seems about right.

Let me add, I have a friend with a Leaf who lives in Williamson County. She drives her daughter in to Nashville every day and says the Leaf goes further than you think. She put 1,200 miles on her car in three weeks so she would know. I haven’t had a chance to put my car to that kind of test yet.

My first two weeks I was a mileage hawk, I’d freak out if my charge got below 60 miles. I was paranoid I’d run out of charge for some bizarre reason. Now I barely pay attention to it. One of these days that will get me into trouble, I’m sure.

Plus, it’s not like there’s a rule that you have to be on empty to recharge! I’ll recharge at 70 miles if I think I’m going to be doing a lot of driving the next day. The charge issue really is not as big of a deal as I thought it would be. There are several public charging stations around Nashville and I’ve taken to using the one at the Publix grocery store, too. I plug it in and can get another 10 or 20 miles while I’m doing my shopping and other errands. Multi-tasking!

The second thing everyone asks is, “what’s your electric bill like?” I have received two electric bills since getting the Leaf and both showed we used substantially less electricity this year than the same months last year. That’s a reflection of the home energy efficiency upgrades we made earlier this year — foam insulation in the attic, insulating and caulking in the crawl space and duct work, etc. (People, if you haven’t done this to your home, go into your wallet right now, pull out a $20 bill, and throw it in the garbage can. Now do that every week. That is an illustration of what you are doing by not insulating and caulking your home.)

So again: I don’t know! Suffice it to say, I’m not using so much electricity to charge my car that I’ve countered the effect of our home energy efficiency upgrades.

In many ways, nothing has changed. The Leaf is a car like any other. But in other ways, everything has changed. I mentioned using the public charging station at Publix, well let me tell you: I have now changed where I do all of my grocery shopping. I used to shop at Whole Foods because their organic produce can’t be beat (can someone explain why the organic produce sections at traditional grocery stores are so crappy? The produce is never fresh and the selection always sucks). But if I can recharge my car for free while I’m doing my shopping, hell yeah I’ll shop there. And then I moved my checking account to the bank in the Publix shopping center so I can do my banking while I’m there. And there’s a terrific little wine store there too, even a nail salon if I’m so inclined. So now I can kill and hour or so with shopping, banking, and other stuff while recharging my car!

So get a clue, Nashville retailers. An EV charger brings customers — not just for you, but for everyone around you. And Whole Foods, you really screwed up by installing a charging station at your Franklin store but not the Nashville one. What were you thinking?

And here’s another thing. The other night we went out to dinner and took the Leaf. Amazingly, there was another Leaf in the parking lot — I’m not the only one driving an electric car in Nashville! So just a little tip, Nashville retailers.

I’m excited to see more public charging stations crop up. There’s now one at the Loveless Cafe. The Loveless is pretty far from me, so it would be fun to take the Leaf out there and recharge while enjoying some yummy chicken and biscuits. But what if I get out there and someone is using the charger? Or worse … a non-EV is parked in that spot? (Judging by this picture that has been a problem in the past). That would be horrible. We’ll have to see what happens.

I bought an annual $10 Green Parking Permit from the Davidson County Clerk last week. This allows me to park downtown in city lots and on the street without paying. With hockey season coming up, we’ll be downtown a lot more and $10 is about how much you have to pay per night. I think we’ll get a lot of use out of it. Just a tip: you don’t have to drive an electric car to be eligible for the Green Parking Permit deal (but you do have to live in Davidson County). You can see if your vehicle qualifies here.

So far, so good. I’m loving the Leaf life. For anyone who doesn’t have to commute 80 gazillion miles a day, it’s a great car.


Filed under electric car, environment, Nashville